Caron Farnesiana : Fragrance Review

44444

Wilhelmina

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Caron Farnesiana defies conventions with its interpretation of violet and almond tinged mimosa notes. The classical softness of mimosa is rendered as suave and tender, yet the effect is more like delicate swirls of incense smoke rather than the swan dawn lightness of spring flowers. Farnesiana has an elegant, mellifluous character, yet at times it speaks in sultry whispers, with the overall impression of the fragrance being surprising, dramatic and at times unpredictable.

The brooding glamor of early Caron fragrances was the signature of the house’s founder, Ernest Daltroff, who between 1904 and 1941 created almost 40 different fragrances for the collection. After the beautiful reign of Ernest Daltroff ended with his death in 1941, Michel Morsetti took over the creative direction. Farnesiana was born in 1947, as a double reference to the Mediterranean that has always inspired Daltroff: the plush beauty of Acacia Farnesiana, the Latin name for cassie flowers and the High Renaissance splendor of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.

The warm and powdery fragrance of cassie flowers has an interesting undertone of balsamic spiciness, which is fully explored in Farnesiana. The composition hits the sonorous, dark notes immediately, giving a glimpse of its incense and sandalwood inlaid base. The honeyed sweetness of mimosa is rendered as the luscious richness of almond nougat, which when paired with the dark woody and ambery notes makes for an exciting counterpoint to the plush floral notes. Initially Farnesiana has a luminous quality, augmented by orange blossom and jasmine; as it dries down, the incense and musk give it a more somber and seductive hue.

The closest modern equivalent to Farnesiana is Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie, which in contrast to most mimosa focused compositions also explored the dark and brooding aspect of this fascinating spring flower. The most recent version of Farnesiana I have smelled struck me as very good. The main difference is the stronger vanilla note and the clearer, brighter floral accent which serve to give Farnesiana a more baroque aura. While I will not pretend that Farnesiana is a crowd pleaser—the combination of powdery warmth and incense richness can be challenging at times —  it has a striking beauty. It is a memorable fragrance in the best of the grand parfum tradition.

Caron Farnesiana includes notes of cassie, mimosa, bergamot, jasmine, violet, lily of the valley, lilac, opoponax, vanilla, sandalwood, hay, and musk. It is available from Bergdorf Goodman and other major retailers. A list of stores can be found at Parfums Caron website.

Sample source: vintage 1950s bottle of Farnesiana parfum, 1990s Farnesiana parfum and the most recent parfum version sampled at Bergdorf Goodman.

Photo credit: Wilhelmina, Paris 1967, by F.C. Gundlach, some rights reserved.

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16 Comments

  • Marina: Love, love, love it. Have been wearing it non-stop for the last couple of weeks. Interestingly, I don’t find it sultry. Not that it is exactly innocent, but it is somehow too melancholy and delicate on me, to be about sensuality, you know? March 18, 2011 at 8:42am Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: As soon as I saw the Red Lady I thought, is this what Victoria looks like? Somehow this is how I picture you – gliding down Parisienne Blvds.
    tho wearing shades of course, and a whisper of fragrance as she passes by – what is it? Where has she been? With whom? And for what type of liaison?

    🙂 March 18, 2011 at 8:43am Reply

  • Victoria: I find it that way overall, but then there are times when those incense and dark musk notes appear, and it begins to smolder. Perhaps, I just see it differently, because delicate is not how it wears on me at all. March 18, 2011 at 9:07am Reply

  • Victoria: I am flattered that you imagine me as Wilhelmina. I don't think that we share many similar features though. I do love red and Paris, that's true! 🙂 March 18, 2011 at 9:10am Reply

  • Kate: Victoria looks more like Audrey Hepburn.

    Is it ok that I’m giving away your secrets, V? 🙂 March 18, 2011 at 9:43am Reply

  • Suzanna: One of my favorites, so what a pleasure to find a review of it today!

    Farnesiana ages well. My circa-1990’s bottle (now almost empty) is deeper and richer than a new bottle fresh from the boutique. This older bottle comes immediately to the dark basenotes and misses the almost-green spring of the opening mimosa/violet bouquet. I also have the parfum, but the EdP is my choice for a rubbery quality that pops up in other Caron classics like En Avion. March 18, 2011 at 10:01am Reply

  • Victoria: Kate, you are too kind! That’s a lovely compliment, thank you. March 18, 2011 at 10:47am Reply

  • Victoria: I am so happy to see another Farnesiana fan. It is probably one of the least known from Caron, and yet it is a fantastic fragrance.

    I noticed that Caron fragrances in general age really well, and my Farnesiana parfums withstood the test of time nicely. You are right that the newer version is greener and fresher on top, which works perfectly with the dark florals and woods of the base. March 18, 2011 at 10:50am Reply

  • sweetlife: I’m so pleased to hear that the new stuff is still worth a try. I’ve been curious about this for awhile, but the vintage bottles I’ve seen are outrageously expensive. *scribbles another onto NYC sniff list* March 18, 2011 at 11:15am Reply

  • Victoria: I am comparing the new and the vintage versions of Caron this week, and it is a mixed bag. Some reformulations are excellent, others are awful. I think that it should tell you something when I keep mistyping Tabac Bland, instead of Tabac Blond! 🙂 March 18, 2011 at 12:16pm Reply

  • sisty: I hope you’ll report on those new vs. vintage comparisons — can’t wait to hear your views. March 18, 2011 at 2:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: I will post them next week. I am very disappointed with the new version of Tabac Blond, almost too disheartened to even write anything about it. March 18, 2011 at 4:09pm Reply

  • LostArgonaut: Victoria, can you recommend any Caron’s fragrances intended for feminine market that can be used by men as well? There’s not much to explore for us in Caron’s masculine lines, and it’s not fair! 🙂 March 18, 2011 at 9:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: I would recommend Nuit de Noel and Poivre (perhaps, Secret Oud too.) Tabac Blond would have been my top choice, but it has been reformulated to death, so it is not worth trying anymore. March 21, 2011 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Camilla: Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates. July 22, 2014 at 9:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Trying googling “twitter widgets for WordPress,” and depending on what you use, you can find some options this way. July 23, 2014 at 7:41am Reply

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